Eating and drinking during radiotherapy | Cancer Research UK
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Eating and drinking during radiotherapy

Nurse and patients talking about cancer

This page tells you about eating and drinking during and after radiotherapy treatment. There is information about


What to eat and drink

You need to have as healthy a diet as possible during radiotherapy. Your body needs protein to heal itself and you need plenty of calories. Your radiographer, doctor or nurse can advise you on how to eat well. They can also arrange for you to see a dietician to see you if you are having any problems with eating. It is important not to diet during radiotherapy so that you don't lose weight. Your radiotherapy plan is specific to your size and shape. If your weight changes a lot the radiotherapy plan may need to be done again.

If you are able to eat normal foods it is important to eat high energy and protein foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, cheese, full fat milk, beans and pulses.

But if you don't have much appetite you can add extra energy and protein to your diet, without actually having to eat more food. You can have high energy drinks as milkshakes or soups. And you can add high protein powders to your normal food. Your doctor or nurse can prescribe these for you.

It is important to drink plenty of fluids, about 3 litres a day if possible. Keeping well hydrated helps the body to heal the radiotherapy damage.


Tips for eating well

If you are having problems eating, it can help to

  • Have small snacks through the day rather than large meals – eat little and often
  • Have a soft or liquid diet if swallowing is difficult
  • Avoid strong alcohol – it can aggravate a sore mouth or a sensitive digestion
  • Avoid spicy foods if your mouth or throat are sore
  • Ask staff about potential problems and how to try to prevent them before you start your treatment if possible
  • Tell the radiotherapy staff about any problems you have with eating or drinking – they can arrange for you to talk to a dietician
  • Ask the staff if you need any food supplements

If you have problems

If you are having difficulty eating enough, you can eat high fat foods. There are more calories in fat than in protein or carbohydrate. Remember that you may lose a little weight during radiotherapy. But if you are having any problems with eating tell the staff involved in your treatment.

There is information about managing diet problems in the section about coping physically with cancer.


More information about radiotherapy 

We have detailed information about external radiotherapy and internal radiotherapy in this section.

There is also detailed information about the side effects of radiotherapy.

You can phone the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They will be happy to answer any questions that you have.

Our general organisations page gives details of people who can provide information about radiotherapy. Some organisations can put you in touch with a cancer support group. Our cancer and treatments reading list has information about books, leaflets and other resources about radiotherapy treatment.

If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use Cancer Chat, our online forum.

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Updated: 2 May 2014